Sunday, 31 May 2015

Here's a tree in summer

It’s been a really rather lovely day, the majority of which was spent in the company of Lisa and her delightful children, Poppy and Rosie. I’ve started calling them by their wrong names for some reason. I think my subconscious tells me to use the “flower” name, and before I know it, the wrong flower is tumbling out of my mouth!!

I actually did a morning’s work on Brass, and made the very controversial decision to change two of the characters’ names. It had come to my attention that quite a number of the characters had confusingly similar-sounding names. Tots, Titty and Tats are obvious examples, but there was a William and a Wilfred (shortened to Will and Wilf), a Henry and a Harry, and a Lizzie and an Eliza (which you could argue is actually the same name…) So, whereas the roles of Lizzie and William still exist, they shall henceforth be known as Peggy and Gideon. William’s name gets sung really quite often in the song Letters, so I was limited to three-syllabled, similarly-stressed Edwardian names. My only other options were Oliver, Jonathan and Benjamin, but it would have been incredibly odd to have a character called Benjamin, particularly as Brass was effectively sponsored by the name. When your lead actor, your composer, your stage manager, your MD and your chaperone are all called Benjamin it’s confusing enough!

Lisa and the kids arrived at 2pm, leaving poor Mark somewhere on Harley Street having shockingly brutal-sounding dentistry. We took a picnic onto Hampstead Heath, to the field where the parakeets hang out, which looked a picture in the late spring sunshine. They’ve mown a wide path through the middle of the field, and left the grasses everywhere else to grow tall and wild. Many of them have a slightly rusty-red hue, which adds to the astonishing palette of colour; the blue sky, the yellow buttercups and the susurrating trees proudly growing every shade of green and yellow, and in some cases dark purple… I taught Poppy a little game we used to play at school which involves a strand of fancy-looking grass, and the rhyme; “here’s a tree in summer, here’s a tree in winter, there’s a bouquet of flowers, and there’s the April showers…” It basically involves stripping the grass of its seeds, gathering them into a mini-bouquet and then throwing them into the air. I’d be interested to know if anyone else reading this used to play that game, or if it can be tracked down to my specific corner of the Midlands. At one point Poppy asked me what the April Showers were, and it suddenly struck me with horror that they’re a thing of the past. In my childhood, you could always rely on April as being a month of sunshine and light showers, but in recent years it’s been one of the driest months on the calendar. Now it tends to rain in August… 

The picnic was wonderful and we had all sorts of fancy salads and dips. Lisa was particularly impressed that I’d cooked two quiches and wrapped them up in string and grease-proof paper. It all looked a little First World War, which appealed to me for obvious reasons. 

It’s lovely to see Poppy interacting with Rosie. There’s a good seven years between them (Little George came in the middle) which it turns out is a really nice age gap. Poppy is really careful and loving with her sister. In fact the currency of that entire family is love and kisses, which I think is something we could all probably learn from. 

We went from the picnic site to the tree with the hole in it. It’s my favourite hang out on Hampstead Heath, and the kids had a wonderful time climbing into the hollow trunk, and out again through the various holes of differing sizes. One particular hole, low in the trunk, is very small, and when children pop out of it, it’s almost like they’ve being birthed by the tree. Nathan got stuck in that hole. The silly boy doesn’t like to be told that something is impossible and there was a panicky moment when I had visions of having to call the fire brigade, use a tub of butter to grease him out, or acknowledge defeat and bring food to him on a daily basis until he managed to extract himself!

From the tree, we went to another favourite Heath-like haunt, namely the mile-long Edwardian pergola on the West Heath, which was draped in the most beautiful wisteria, which dripped from the wooden structure like droplets of lilac-coloured rain. The smell was almost over-powering. Lisa and I came down one staircase and were almost knocked-out by the headiness of the aroma. Truly astonishing. The kids found pine cones and we went home past Harry Styles’ house, or at least the house I was once told was Harry Styles’ house, which was sadly more exciting to Poppy than a magic tree, or a pergola straight out of Romeo and Juliet. Mind you, if we’d have passed Benny from ABBA’s house when I was her age, I wouldn’t have stopped smiling, well, possibly ever… 

Right… Bed time for Benjamin. I can feel my eyes closing, and I have a very important day tomorrow… 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Brass notes

I spent the day today working my way through the latest set of notes from Philippa on Brass. I started at 10 am and have only just finished. They were very good notes and some, namely the ones to do with clarifying the relationship between the characters of Tom and Alf, were particularly inspiring, and made me look at the show through a slightly different lens. 

The notes I've been given since Brass was performed last August, have thrown the show a little off kilter in terms of structure, and I'm still trying to remedy the dip in energy which has emerged towards the end of the show's first quarter and the fact that there are perhaps one or two too many letters floating about in the show. I'm not quite sure how else to get the characters communicating with one another, especially with the women in Leeds and the men stuck in France. 

I went up into Highgate village after lunch to pay the quiz money into the recording bank account. Whilst I was in there, a hugely amusing woman was holding court. She went up to the counter to ask if her wages had been paid in, and was holding a clutch of notes to pay in if this wasn't the case. When it transpired that her money had indeed been paid in, she did cartwheels around the bank and told everybody that the drinks were on her tonight! I kind of wanted to ask how much had gone into the account! She seemed so happy that I wondered if she'd won the lottery. 

I sat in Costa Coffee with Highgate's finest, and worked through more of Philippa's notes, whilst two of the poshest little girls in the world gossiped like old ladies at the table behind me. When you're poor, it's amazing how much time you can spend in a cafe on one pot of tea and a glass of tap water.

Thursday, 28 May 2015


We spent the day in the company of the lovely Cat, who is directing and producing the project we're going to be working on for Sky Arts later in the year. We kicked things off with brunch at Le Pain Quotidien in Highgate... At least I think that's how you spell the place. It's bloody expensive for a cafe which is so difficult to spell. A couple of eggs, a few mushrooms and a cup of tea will set you back a fortune, but it was lovely to sit out on Highgate High Street in the spring sunshine, whilst the world bustled past.

We went back to our house for more cups of tea (I have tea coming out of my ears) and to look through our theatrical trunks, where I found the musical that I wrote at the age of eight, which was called Snow White: The Musical. It makes hysterical reading. One of the kids in my school had obviously said he'd only be in the musical if he could play a mod, because Paul Weller makes a cameo appearance... Oddly enough in a scene with a crow! Cat cried with laughter when she saw it! It was also rather funny - and somewhat tragic - to find the little contract I'd made out to one of the actors in the piece, telling her she would owe me 10p if she pulled out of the show! I must find her on Facebook, because I think she might owe me 10p! I don't remember the show ever being performed... I use the word show in inverted commas! It is horrendous.

Cat was here until about 4pm, talking mostly about musical theatre, and then I spent the late afternoon and evening working on the new Prologue of Brass, which is incredibly different to the last one. It's a little scary to be back at stage one with it, but I know it's for the good of the show, and I'm keen to have the new draft ready for our album release date on Wednesday 3rd June.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Post forty

I saw a boxer dog wearing sunglasses today. And he seemed perfectly happy doing so! I desperately wanted to talk to his owner and ask whether the creature ever tried to shake the glasses off, but he was wagging his tail and bounding along very happily. The dog, not its owner. "Only in Shoreditch," I thought... 

Speaking of Shoreditch, I was there this afternoon to see my god-daughters, their mother, Philippa, and grandma, Kate. It was a fabulous antidote to the unceasing stress of the last few weeks and it felt lovely just to spend a few hours playing with water pistols in the back garden with a couple of carefree, happy kids. Silver casually emptied an entire jug of water all over the kitchen floor and Deia was seen at one point standing in a bucket in her socks, the water seeping into her dress like some sort of sponge... Oh to be a child again! 

Turning forty has been a really interesting experience for me, and looking around my friends of the same age I'm witnessing some rather profound changes in them as well. It's not true of everyone, of course, and, curiously, I've noticed it effecting the friends of mine with kids considerably less. Having kids, I think, will make a person a great deal less self-obsessed and therefore less likely to dwell on the horrors of the big four oh. In general, my friends with children have acknowledged the change, but not had the time to wallow in it before the complexities of child-rearing kick in... I think parents store their issues up for the moment the children fly the nest... 

Those of us without kids hit forty and unwittingly realise that we've somehow made a bed for ourselves. It's difficult to start a new career post forty for example, difficult to suddenly decide you want kids, more difficult to lose weight and get fit... By the time we hit forty we have an inkling of how the rest of our lives might be shaped, and some of us aren't sure we like what they see, both physically and metaphorically, when we look in the mirror. 

A few of my 40-ish single friends, particularly the girls, are really struggling right now. I've noticed it a lot recently, with mates who are suddenly on various different anti-depressants, going through dark, somewhat existential times. Gone are the days when everyone seemed carefree, spontaneous and full of the joys of spring. A weight has crept in. A seriousness. People seem shackled and some wear the varying shades of disappointment very squarely on their faces. It's rather sad to see. 

In a few years time, I've no doubt that we'll all be very comfortable with our lives again. We'll all know who we are, and be ready to face part two of the adventure!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

It's raining, it's pouring

You know the expression "it never rains but it pours?" Well today it would appear that there's some sort of hurricane going on!

The day started most positively with a call from a delivery man; "I've got seven boxes of CDs to give to you. Where am I coming?"

Thirty minutes later, the geezer had arrived and helped me to cart 1000 Brass CDs into my house. Result! 

I was thrilled. I had previously thought  that the over-run at the mixing stage was going to scupper our chances of having physical CDs ready for the album launch party on Sunday, but there they all were... Dressed up smartly and ready to impress. They look fabulous. 

I immediately opened up a CD to see how beautiful they were inside. Imagine my horror, therefore, when it became apparent that all the pages in the inner booklet had been printed in the wrong order! I immediately felt a rush of blood to my cheeks and the rash on my body starting to itch. I had no idea what to do, who to tell, or how to remedy the problem...

To cut a very long and painful story short, the situation has now been sorted, and a new batch of booklets are currently being printed which should be with us by Sunday. It's cost us more money, and it also means that people who buy the album will receive a lovely shrink-wrapped copy of it with the new booklet on the side to insert once they open it, but I think this is a small price to pay for everything being okay again. 

Frankly, when the CD reaches one million sales, this first faulty batch will be the ones which sell for ten times the cost, so if you're lucky enough to get one I'd suggest keeping hold of it! 

It's been one of those days when everything else seemed to be kicking off as well. The sort of day when every phone call I made was interrupted by someone else trying to get in touch. 

I'm fairly astonished to report a phone call from the BBC in Yorkshire, who had hitherto been interested in broadcasting our Billy Whistle film, telling me that they weren't sure that it was "Yorkshire" enough to appeal to their viewers. It was all a little "W1A" for my liking, but there comes a point when you have to acknowledge that you're too tired to try to fight these things. In the end I said, "it's set in Leeds, it was performed in Leeds, it's about Yorkshire folk and quite a number of its performers are from Yorkshire... I don't really know what else to say if that's not enough!" This was countered with the fact that it didn't feature rolling hills and dales like my Symphony for Yorkshire. There was little I could say to that, other than that it was filmed in a First World War trench. The rolling landscapes of Yorkshire might have been a little anachronistic, but I guess if that's all the good folk of the county are interested in seeing on their television screens, then fair play. This is obviously not for them! 

These things are all sent to test us however, and will mean that the sense of relief when the album is finally out there in the public domain will be all the more remarkable!! 

Monday, 25 May 2015

I want therefore I am

There was a dreadful and sudden realisation today that I need to get a job… immediately! So tomorrow morning I’m going straight to the Job Centre. I’m in a ludicrous position because it looks like a job is coming my way which starts in September… but until that point there’s nothing in the coffers and that needs to change within two weeks. Ughh!

The day has been spent doing various bits of admin and answering an incredibly detailed questionnaire about musical theatre. Many of you will know that I’m working on a project at the moment which is about whether you can distill the formula which leads to the creation of a great musical. Of course, this is a hugely complicated thing, and the more we look into it, the more complicated things get. We are forced to leave no stone unturned. We’re looking into narrative, music, structure… We’re looking at the archetypes; the sorts of songs which get written in a musical. The “I am” song, the “I want” song, the cameo song… The list goes on and on, but there are patterns emerging, and I’m finding the process utterly fascinating. The big question, of course, is will I LEARN anything in the process? Will my own writing improve as a result of all this studying? Of course the issue I have is that great writing in my view is instinctive. I think the worst writers are the ones who approach everything from the perspective of structure to the detriment of emotion. The more I look into these things, the more I think a loose understanding of form is possibly all that’s needed, but then what do I know? 

If truth be known, in an attempt to beat this rash I have, I’ve sat in the same spot on the sofa all day today, which means I’ve no chance of falling asleep tonight. Boo!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Rash, bash, crash

I woke up this morning with a rash all over my body. It's something which happens to me occasionally after, or during, periods of great duress, so it's not at all surprising that it's happened right now. It's basically a sort of tingly, prickly heat-type bumpy rash on my hands and feet, and every time I scratch myself elsewhere on the body, I leave a blotchy red mark. A lot of sleep, plenty of water and some decent food ought to sort me out, but something's very definitely telling me to stop. In fact, I fell asleep twice this afternoon, which rather cements my belief that I'm suffering from complete nervous and physical exhaustion! 

We've had a relaxing day at Julie's in Catford. It was Craft and Cake, and every one was knitting. Julie seemed to be making an owl-shaped tea cozy, Tina and Kate were knitting stockings and baby booties respectively, and Sam and Nathan were doing scarves. I curled up on the carpet, ate lemon cake and let the conversation wash over me, whilst attempting to fight the desire to scratch myself!

We watched RuPaul's Drag Race on telly this evening, which is the first time I've ever seen the show. It's the most curious television programme, which seems to be about ten drag queens fighting for supremacy. They bitch, whinge, cat fight, make clothes and do photoshoots to see who is the "fiercest." One of them is told to sashay home every week. It's beyond trashy, but I loved it! 

I played the two Brass films to the assembled masses, and they went down very well. Tina was particularly moved. I reckon I'd like to import Tina into every audience that the show ever has! It's not that I like to see a good friend in a quivering heap of tears, but I didn't write Brass as a light comedy, so tears feel appropriate!! 

We drove home and witnessed the aftermath of two terrible car accidents. One of them, which was near the Blackwall tunnel, looked particularly nasty, with people lying on the Tarmac and queues of cars stretching back for miles. What a dreadful way to end a weekend. 

I'm told it's a bank holiday tomorrow. No wonder Old Street is full of revellers! 


Ah! Eurovision. You never cease to amuse, surprise and delight! You will, of course, see that my predictions from yesterday were spot on in terms of the winners. Call me Mr Eurovision!  I'm thrilled Sweden won over Russia. Much as Russia was a great song, I would have felt a bit dirty if it had won! 

Brother Edward is there, having an amazing time by the looks of things. He Facetimed us at various stages in the evening from a hugely busy stadium full of flags and homosexuals!

The wonderful news came through at about 6pm that Ireland had overwhelmingly voted yes to gay marriage. There are few words to describe how that makes me feel; how thrilled I am by how speedily the perception of my community has changed. The thought that 600,000 extra voters (all young) registered to vote because they saw more importance in that referendum than any general election fills me with pride and gratitude. And the moving stories kept coming... The 80 year-old man who emerged from the polling station and said "I think that will probably be the last time I vote and I hope to exit in a better Ireland than the one I entered." The shots of nuns holding ballot papers where they'd voted yes. Unforgettable images and stories which show how wonderful and loving people can be.

Time to turn our collective healing hands to Northern Ireland and Australia! They're the next places which ought to allow gay marriage... And should feel ashamed that they don't.

I spent the day at a careers fair at my old music school in Northampton, which had been brilliantly organised and was attended by all sorts of interesting professionals from the world of music. There were music therapists, instrument repairers, classical musicians, publishers... How lucky would we have been to have that opportunity when we were young? 

About 200 young people apparently attended, which was a good number, but for the quality of guests there, I think many more should have attended. The good folk of Northamptonshire can be a little reticent about attending these things, or putting themselves out there at all in fact. A real shame.

My old mate Tash met me at the music school (we were students there together) and drove back to London with me for the Eurovision Party which was attended by about twelve people, which felt close to the perfect number. Enough to feel like a crowd but no so many that everyone talked through the songs. 

We had a giant scoreboard and we all cast votes. We had telephone votes from Brother Edward, Izzy's parents and my godson, Will. Our scoreboard had Russia winning with Australia second and Italy third, so we were pretty close. 

Anyway. I'm knackered, so it's time for bed. Sleep well. And for those in Ireland, particularly those, like Brian Kennedy, who fought the brave fight. Thank you. 

And Coleen Nolan? Fuck you. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Make no apology

I forgot to blog last night, largely, I assume, because there's very little to say! 

The day was spent cooking lasagnes for our Eurovision party tonight whilst Nathan wrote up the pattern for his epic shawl. All very gay! Brother Edward face-timed from Vienna itself where they're all having a fabulous time. Everyone's talking about the Spanish entry all of a sudden, which, of course, no one's seen because Spain go straight through to the final. I still maintain we're looking at Sweden or Russia as the winner. 

Apologies if I'm not making particular sense this morning... I think the alarm went off in the middle of a period of very deep sleep, because I had no idea why it was going off and what I was meant to be doing today until I asked Nathan!

The good news is that my phone is back in my grubby mits. What a huge relief it is to stop having to write texts on a brick of a phone. It's amazing how quickly we forget the folk crafts! 

The Loose Women thing rumbles on... I've been quoted in an article about it in the Pink Paper. It's funny: quite a lot of people are (rightly) emphasising Coleen Nolan's right to free speech, and that, just because we don't agree with something someone says, it doesn't mean we should automatically shut them up. This is absolutely true, but the issue I have is a subtler one... 

Should Coleen lose her job? No. Should she apologise or put the record straight? Yes. Should she be sacked if she continues to refuse to acknowledge the anger she's caused? Possibly. Should the gay community be given right of reply on the issue? Absolutely. Should ITV apologise for putting a one-sided "debate" on television in the run up to a very sensitive referendum in Ireland on a similar subject? Certainly. 

I think the bottom line in this instance is that there's a very unique and underhand form of intolerance which happens with the gay community where people still think it's okay to make us feel like we somehow need to keep quiet about our lifestyles because not everyone approves. Religious arguments are always at the tops of people's lists when justifying these kind of remarks. "What about the human rights of the people your sort offend?" They scream. And somehow this is deemed to be acceptable. Yet no one would EVER defend the human rights of a racist.

It's a curiously specific thing which LGBT people have dealt with for a lifetime. On the 29th March last year in England and Wales gay people finally became equal in the eyes of the law and I make no apologise for heavy-handedly defending our new rights, and making it clear that, in Northern Ireland, it is unacceptable that gay marriage isn't legal. Homophobia can be seething and subtle, but at the end of the day, Coleen, Janet and Jamelia were doing just one thing: justifying prejudice, and I don't think any other minority group would put up with that kind of footle. Frankly if it's unacceptable to make a type of remark about a black people,  then it should be unacceptable to make the same remark about gay one. That's why we have equality laws. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

La Trav

I’m currently sitting on the floor at Euston Station, waiting for a the Northern Line train which will take me to Highgate. 
I’ve just been to an early-doors screening of a BBC film about La Traviata, which was presented by an old university friend of mine, Tom Service. It’s a charming film. I don’t actually know the opera. I’d never seen it before, and if I’m honest I tend to avoid opera these days because I can’t really get my head around the ghastly sound of women shrieking their tits off and “schmackting”. People seem to think it’s sublime for some reason. The same people love Shakespeare for the sake of loving Shakespeare. It’s rooted in snobbery, of course. But the film actually touched me very deeply. It was fascinating to hear the story behind the piece, and Tom is a very engaging presenter; gloriously gauche in his delivery!
I chatted a lot to the production team afterwards. I am so awful at schmoozing. My instinct is always to hide in the shadows, which probably comes across as aloofness rather than crippling shyness. 
Today was all about relaxing. I met my old mate Matt Lucas for lunch at Wagamama on Wigmore Street and we caught up on about six months of chatter and gossip. It was so great to see him. He’s such a lovely man. I realised today that our friendship goes back to 1999, which feels like another world ago. 
I took myself up to our gym in Kentish Town for a swim after lunch. The time has come to get back into shape. A sharp mind is fed by a well-conditioned body, so it’s back onto fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of soup and daily exercise before I’m too old to haul my sorry ass down a flight of stairs. 

I reclaimed the Brass soundtrack today. A few days aural rest, and a successful edit was all I apparently needed to realise what a wonderful album we’ve made. I had a lovely time listening to the Prologue sitting outside a cafe on Carnaby Street whilst waiting to go the screening. I am now officially excited to show it to the world.
Loose Women update: apparently some of the panel were hypnotised by a dog today. Serious journalists these women!

Loosely whinging

I’ve spent the day tidying the house. I washed the carpet. I hoovered. I polished. I was like a cleaning machine. I wanted Shake and Vac, but couldn’t find any, but the sitting room looks and smells glorious. 
Far too much of my spare time was spent dealing with ITV and various other people regarding the Coleen Nolan nonsense on Loose Women. It all kicked off when I watched the show this afternoon and realised that no one was going to make any apologies for the debacle of the day before. To make matters worse, Coleen went off on another rant - this time, astonishingly, about the etiquette of apologising in relation to Thomas Cook’s boss and the Corfu “gas deaths.”
I immediately phoned up the complaints line at ITV, whinged for ten minutes, and was told, as I was yesterday, that someone at Loose Women would call me. No one called me yesterday, and no one called me today. In fact, later in the afternoon I was sent what can only be described as a threatening email from someone at ITV complaints informing me that I had effectively been banned from ever calling them again based on “the highly emotive nature of your repeated telephone calls, viewers services and all members of the Loose Women production team have been given instructions that all future correspondence with you on this matter is to take place in writing. I have instructed my team to reaffirm this communication and if they receive any further emotive challenges, they have  been authorised to terminate any future calls from you politely but immediately.” 
All a bit Third Reich if you ask me. If someone doesn’t play the game, pull rank and make it very difficult for them to complain in the future! It seems that my telling them that I had formally complained to Ofcom has got them in a panic.
Minutes later I received an official response from Loose Women telling me that Coleen “emphatically did not equate ISIS with homosexuality or gay marriage at any point.” Her email to me came across as a woman grasping at straws, and more than that, one who had obviously taken legal advice to find watertight justifications for what the various women had said. I was astonished and told her so in a response. Basically, the overwhelming fact which is coming out in all of this is that no one on the Loose Women team, not the presenters, or the producers, has any idea about the very specific situation that the LGBT community is in in Northern Ireland. They’re also taking me more seriously than anyone else. Nathan wrote to them yesterday and has still not heard anything back… 

Standing up for human rights is a tiring old business though! I don’t like the antagonism and have to view the whole thing as a game to stop myself from feeling deeply depressed. Nathan’s had some awful dealings on twitter with Christians with chips on their shoulders and I have been contacting people all day about the issue. It seems that the story has really captivated people. 250,000 people alone have looked at the PinkNews piece which was inspired by our initial frenzy of twitter activity yesterday. It was me who contacted the editor of the paper to tell him what had happened. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Loose Women Schmoose Women

We’ve had quite a day today. It should have been a really calm one. Nathan was writing up a knitting pattern. I’d decided to thoroughly tidy the front room because I’m bored of living in a pig sty… 

We had the telly on in the background and Loose Women came on. For readers outside the UK, Loose Women is a sort of chat show which is presided over by a group of women, who can loosely be described as celebrities (that’s why they’re called Loose Women). They interview other celebrities and talk about issues of the day, all from a very tabloid-like perspective. Imagine a bunch of fish wives sitting at a bus stop and you won’t go far wrong!

Anyway, we pricked our ears up when they started talking about the landmark case in Northern Ireland where a judge has just ruled against a “family-run Christian bakery” who refused to make a cake with an image which supported gay marriage. 

Normally on the show, the four presenters are expected to give all sides of an argument, so I was expecting a little bit of homophobic bile from Coleen Nolan (the fat Nolan sister who can’t sing) because she’s been openly hostile in the past about gay adoption and gay parenting. I thought Janet Street Porter, who’s always seemed an abrasive, yet fairly sensible sort, would be tasked with the role of defending the decision and supporting her legion of gay fans. 

How wrong we were. It seems that the producers of Loose Women were not interested in balanced argument and allowed the four women on the panel to make some of the most bigoted and offensive remarks I’ve heard this century! It was like going back twenty years and watching Robert Kilroy Silk! (Who, for readers outside this country, was a big orange blob of a bloke who vanished into a puff of right-wing extremism.) 

Street Porter waded in first, claiming she knew all about the case because she’d “written about it before.” And yet her opening statement was incorrect:

“Obviously in Northern Ireland, gay marriage is legal and discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality is illegal…”

Gay marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland. It should be, but religious bigots have managed to keep it at bay.  

Street Porter went on to say that she had great sympathy for the bakery, and the whole conversation turned into one of those ones where people say that everyone’s got a right to their own opinions and that the rights of the religious people were not being taken into consideration. 

- Before I go on, I must make one thing clear. I defend anyone’s right to be religious. What I cannot condone is anyone who uses religion as an excuse for bigotry or persecution. One doesn’t choose to be gay. One chooses to be religious - and one certainly chooses what one does with one’s religious views - 

Jamelia Davis (a sort of poor man’s rubbish one in Destiny’s Child) waded in to the discussion with a line which teetered on the edge of offensive; “I completely support equal rights for everyone, but, for instance, if somebody went in and asked for a sexually explicit cake, should they be forced to do that?”

- No, Jamelia. There are obscenity laws in this country which would prevent a cake shop from having to decorate a cake like a giant vagina. Trying to compare gay marriage to hard porn is both offensive and ludicrous. - 

Coleen Nolan’s response, however, was priceless. Her little fat face went all red as she spoke, like she was seething inside: “what if somebody said ‘right, I want a cake, and I want the whole Islamic State on it, and how I support it, and how I support them killing our people? Because it’s a business do they have to make it?”

- No, you stupid, talentless, bigoted woman. There are anti-terror laws in this country. If you went into a cake shop and asked them to put a pro-ISIS remark on a cake, you could legitimately be arrested for inciting terrorism.-

Not one of the four women stood up for gay rights, and I find this deeply worrying when considering that Southern Ireland is holding a referendum on the issue of gay marriage on Friday. These are sensitive times, and all sides of the issue must be explored and discussed. 

ITV have not yet responded. Twitter has gone bananas. Lots of people are up in arms and demanding apologies left, right an centre, from Janet for being a sloppy journalist and getting her facts wrong, from Jamelia for comparing gay people to sexual perverts and to Coleen for comparing us to supporters of ISIS. The latter is particularly nasty. ISIS are currently tying gay men to chairs and throwing them off tall buildings. Coleen’s was a wholly inappropriate and deeply offensive comment, one which I think is bordering on a sackable offence. 

I’ve been on to ITV all day. The manager of the Loose Women team, someone called Penny, refuses to call me back, so has left a poor woman called Lucy in the firing line, trying to deal with the complaints. Complaints in this issue are vital because apologies need to be made. It was a catastrophic ten minutes of telly; the blind leading the blind. Not one woman knew any facts. They were talking for the sake of talking… and we all know that careless talk costs lives. 

So anyway, as I was speaking to ITV, I managed to drop my iPhone and the whole thing has shattered into a million pieces. The rest of the afternoon was therefore spent trying to get a replacement handset to use until the insurers have done their thing, which apparently could take as much as a week… and we all know, in insurance terms, that probably means three.

So I bought the most rubbish little old-fashioned hand set with old-fashioned predictive text messaging which I’ve entirely forgotten how to use. I don’t have any of my contacts in the phone, so basically, if you text me over the next week, it’s worth saying who you are!

I went up to Halfords in Friern Barnet to replace the bulb in the break light of our car, and solved a mystery whilst I was there. For some days now, as we’ve got into our car, we’ve been aware of a sort of cabbagey smell. All became clear when I opened the boot to change the light. During the Billy Whistle shoot last week, a McDonalds package with a load of half-eaten food had been shoved in the boot and forgotten about. It was full of, I think, mayonnaise, which has gone utterly rancid. As I pulled it out, a great big dollop of the smelly stuff smeared itself down my trouser leg. The smell was so insanely grotesque that I instantly gagged and probably would have thrown up all over the car park had it not been raining and therefore somewhat suppressing the smell. 

So, up until that point it wasn’t a very pleasant day… 

The evening, however, was lovely. Izzy Mant and Little Michelle came over to watch the first Eurovision semi-final. I cooked baked potatoes, salads and cheeses and we had cherry pie and custard for pudding. It wasn’t a classic line up of songs. I think Thursday’s semi is a much stronger affair, but Estonia, Serbia, Georgia and Armenia were well regarded. We all had to acknowledge Russia as well, despite the fact that we love to hate that bunch of rancid homophobes. 

Speaking of which… I wonder what the Loose Women will have to say for themselves tomorrow… If you do feel compelled to send ITV a little email about the subject, the address you’ll need is:

On a much more positive final note... I released the trailer for the Brass Cast Album last night at 11pm. I showed it to the cast first... we all gathered in our special virtual Brass room on Facebook, and then let them loose with the tweets and things. It's had a good number of views already - well over a thousand - so if you fancy a look, it's only thirty seconds long and it's here


Monday, 18 May 2015

Mr Sands

At Starbucks in Manchester Station today, a woman was going down the long queue asking if she could take people's drinks orders. I asked for a cup of tea and she looked at me like I'd gone mad. Three minutes later she returned and asked if she could take my drinks order, so I asked for a cup of tea again, and off she toddled. When I reached the front of the queue, the woman behind the counter asked what drink I wanted, so I said "I'm the one who ordered the tea" and she shrugged, asked what kind of tea I wanted and filled a cup with hot water personally... Begging the simple question... What on earth was the purpose of the woman working the queue? Was she there simply to focus my mind so that by the time I arrived at the counter I wouldn't waste precious time by saying umm...?

It was raining in Manchester this morning as I battled my way from the Travelodge to the nearest tram stop. The only bright side of my journey to the station was passing a tram stop called Pomona, which I thought was a very cool name.

I feel utterly wiped out today, a fact which was not helped in any way by my having arrived an hour early at Manchester Station. It's a ghastly barn of a building at the best of times, but when a series of alarms go off, coupled with an echoey message which says (on loop) "attention please, would Inspector Sands please go to the main office" it becomes like something from a dystopian novella. When I worked in theatre, "Mr Sands" was a code for fire, which staff were expected to use to prevent mass hysteria amongst theatre audiences in the unlikely event that the building went up in flames. "Mr Magpie" was a suspicious package and "Mr Dudley" was a suspicious person. I once had to radio through a Mr Dudley message when I found someone hiding in a darkened toilet after the audience had vacated the building one night. He gave me the shock of my life and was making up all sorts of nonsense about not being able to find the door because it had gone dark whilst he was peeing... I very casually left the loos, stood on the staircase outside, switched on the walkie-talkie and radioed the announcement to the fireman and front of house manager who were the only people left in the building. They were there in seconds and we were able to escort the man off the premises. I have no doubt that if we hadn't found him, we'd have been burgled that night, but there was, of course, no way of proving the fact.

My hunch about the meaning of Mr Sands in the setting of Manchester train station, was bailed out by a follow-up announcement urging "the person who has left an unattended suitcase by the entrance to platform four" to collect said bag as soon as possible!

The girl sitting opposite me on the train back to London spilt her coffee all over the table, but fortunately managed to miss my computer by a millimetre. She didn't apologise, probably cus she was embarrassed. I'll forgive her for that. What was less forgivable was the amount of makeup she systematically managed to trowel onto her face between Rugby and Watford. She was a pretty little thing in her mid-20s, with beautiful eyes, but layer upon layer of brown foundation was being applied, even to her forehead, to the extent that I would have described her makeup as three-dimensional! It was sort of flaking off! She ended up looking like an old leather handbag which had been basted in the oven for too long, or one of the trannies I met on Canal Street yesterday. Her cheeks looked like they'd been boxed by a kangaroo, there was a tide mark under her chin, her lips looked like she'd haemorrhaged and her eyebrows were giant slugs. She would have graded really badly in an edit.

Perhaps it's cus I'm gay that I genuinely don't understand the need for a shedload of make up on a woman. Perhaps it's also because I'm gay that all I can think about is the mess that poor girl is going to leave on her pillows this evening!

I came home and ground to a halt in front of the telly before proudly and obsessively watching the Billy Whistle film on a loop. It's times like this I understand why Björn, after finishing the mix of Dancing Queen in the middle of the night, drove around Stockholm for hours, searching for early-riser friends whom he could play it to!

I've finished!

Waking up at 7.30am this morning was deeply distressing. I was aching all over and for the first time in this manic period, I can feel my body screaming at me to stop. It is, however, the final day of mayhem. As of tomorrow I can start reclaiming my life.

The house was a pitiful mess. I found a loaf of bread under a pile of Union Jack bunting this morning and realised my creative life had completely engulfed my ordinary existence! Last night I put some washing on and then realised I was too sleepy to stay awake until it was done. Sadly, I knew I needed to turn the washing around in order to have something clean to wear for this morning, so I turned in, set my alarm for an hour's time and duly woke up and went down to the kitchen when it went off. Sadly, the load was still spinning around, so I went back to bed and set my alarm to go off in another hour. Imagine my horror, therefore, when I discovered, nearly three hours after putting the load on, that the machine was STILL going! It never usually takes that long. What on earth was I doing wrong? Is there some sort of AI function in my washing machine which is capable of identifying that I spent a full week away from home and therefore that my washing might be considered to be "heavily soiled..?" (I learned that phrase from Daz adverts...)

Anyway, at 4am, I finally got up to turn the load around, and felt pretty sure I was doing it in my sleep.

Still, getting up at shit o'clock on a Sunday was rewarded by beautiful spring sunshine. I walked down the little causeway to the tube and found a rather charming scene: The cafe kiosk was open, and a number of people were sitting, very calmly drinking coffee and reading newspapers on the chairs outside, in a most glorious sun-trap. I don't see many early mornings, but part of me wonders what I'm missing out on. I probably ought to have joined the Highgate early risers for a few minutes because I reached Euston supremely early and had to mill about for the best part of an hour.

The train to Manchester was unnaturally crowded and rather noisy. I forget that Sunday, at this time, is when pissed-up, aggressive Midlanders, who've had a night out in London return home, and often use the journey as an excuse to keep drinking beer! Someone behind me reeked to the high heavens of curry! I got really quite claustrophobic at one point.

There aren't enough loos on Virgin trains these days, and the queues were six or seven deep. The loos themselves smelt of cider and yeast. Ghastly!

At one stage I went to try and buy a cup of tea only to find a buffet compartment which resembled some kind of rugby changing room with a light film of sweat hanging in the air and about fifty people trying to buy alcohol. I withdrew to my seat and tried to pretend I wasn't there.

At the end of the journey, the train guard apologised to everyone for the over-crowded train. It turns out that the large majority of passengers were football fans. The guard said he hoped the next time we took the train we'd be able to travel with people who were being more polite to their fellow travellers.

Pulling into Manchester itself was a somewhat significant moment.  The last time I was here was to do auditions for Brass. It was February 2014. At that stage Brass was a mere embryo. I'd written a couple of songs, and most of the script. It was Manchester where we first met Hannah Lawson who was destined to play Titty in the show, and, of course, Ben Jones, now Mabberly, who became our Alf. I will probably never forget his audition. Hearing him play the Concierto de Naranjuez on his cornet was a deeply moving moment which actually inspired the show's title track, Brass.

I went for lunch on Canal Street which was rammed with trannies. I think there was some sort of event going on, although the presence of trannies on Canal Street is always something I notice.

I had a horrible sandwich in Via. The food in there always used to be so tasty, but today the bread was stale, the salad was limp and the cheese was suspiciously hard...

I took the tram to the BBC at Media City in Salford and found myself lodged like a sardine into a carriage, surrounded by more football fans heading to Old Trafford. I wanted to run in the opposite direction, but decided it was better to arrive on time stinking of soggy football scarves than not arriving at all. So I stood with my face pressed against the window, breathing deeply and wondering what would happen if the tram went up in flames whilst the peculiar bloke next to me kept nudging me and pointing out the window to say "funny tractor." After engaging him in conversation I ascertained that Manchester United were playing Arsenal, which explains why my entire journey was peopled by fans. I also ascertained that, despite being from North London, my new friend was actually a Man U supporter.  He also had an enormous dent in his forehead, which may well have explained the curious tractor obsession!

This is the first time I've been to Manchester in a long time, possibly ever - when it's not been raining, although there were some suspiciously grey clouds which threatened to revert the place to type. In the sunshine, the city looks rather grand and attractive, although I still find it rather pleased with itself. I've never really taken to Manchester.  They're not my tribe up here.

I love working at the BBC, however... Particularly at night or on a Sunday when it's quiet and relaxed, and people don't feel the need to rush about looking important and too busy to smile. At one stage there was a late-night show from BBC Manchester playing out in the atrium; old-school songs from the shows, like On The Street Where You Live. I rather enjoyed listening to it whilst making myself a cup of tea.

I was at the BBC editing our Billy Whistle film... This was the last of the major tasks I have to do this month before I can kick off my shoes and take a few days to do nothing but sleep.

I've been editing with a chap called Phill, who also edited my Hattersley film. He's a brilliant editor and a Leicester lad, so we had a lot to chat about. Even more brilliantly, one of the graphics guys here is a Kenilworth kid, so it's been a Midlands-tastic evening.

We finished at midnight, which was rather respectable for a day which had started at 4pm. Phill even did a grade of the film, which we've done in incredibly muted colours... Almost sepia.

As I walk back to the hotel, Manchester is raining, which isn't at all surprising.

I cannot believe I've managed to get through the last two weeks with my sanity intact. I genuinely feel the most astonishing sense of achievement, having pulled off the impossible. I've written and produced an original cast album and produced and directed and two promotional videos to accompany it. It's not often I feel really proud of myself, but I'm just going to take five minutes to allow myself that indulgence.

I am, of course, mindful of the people who have helped me along the way on this particular journey. Victoria and Jezza from the NYMT sprung into action and kept me buoyant when I thought I couldn't take another step forward. The amazing, fabulous, talented young people of the NYMT whose enthusiasm for Brass would light up the marquees of a million theatres. PK, whose attention to detail nearly killed him, but he's created magic... Genuine magic. Olivia, PK's wife, who cooked for me every single day and slept in the sitting room so that we could continue to work at night. Keith the cameraman who nicked equipment and slashed his rates so that the NYMT could have only the best... and of course, my darling husband, Nathan, who never fails to pick up the pieces when my heart breaks.

Thank you to you all. And goodnight! I may sleep for some time!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Twins by different Dads

We slept like the dead for ten hours straight. Closing my eyes when my head finally hit the pillow was like going under anaesthetic!

This morning we went to see my ex boyfriend, Daniel and his partner, Matthew, who have just had twin babies with a surrogate mother. Each egg was individually fertilised, so the twins are actually half-siblings, with Daniel and Matthew being the separate fathers. It never ceases to amaze me what can be done in modern medical science.

It's intriguing to watch masculine parenting in action. Neither Daniel nor Matthew uses baby language, or speaks to their children in high-pitched kiddy voices. There was also a refreshing lack of anyone trying to convince us that they're the most effortless, organised and happy parents in the world. Both admitted to finding child-rearing very tricky at times, although from my perspective they seemed incredibly good, caring, loving parents. I'm deeply intrigued to see how their children develop.

We had brunch in their garden, in the glorious sunshine... Scrambled eggs, croissants and a great big jug of freshly squeezed orange juice whilst their dog, Molly, jumped about wondering why her daddies had suddenly started ignoring her.

From Belsize Park we went to Earls Court, to the thanksgiving service for Abbie's Dad, Gary. We actually ended up going to the wrong church, and got really confused when there didn't seem to be anyone around.

Fortunately luck, and traffic were on our side, and we were only five minutes late in the end. It will, however, be the last time I ever drive to Earls Court. For four hours meter parking I paid £17, which, for a Saturday afternoon is daylight robbery and wholly unacceptable. It's less than that to park in Soho!

It was a lovely do, however. Abbie sang Not a Day Goes By beautifully. God only knows how she managed to get through such a devastating song on such an emotionally-charged occasion. We were all agreed that Gary's brother did a wonderfully brave and moving address, which made us all think about our own siblings. A little nervous chuckle went through the church when one poor woman spoonerised Abbie's parents names, Di and Gary and created Guy and Darry!

I think rather a lot of us emerged from the event realising that, in many instances, a memorial can be so much more appropriate than a funeral. Just that little bit of distance enables a much more well-considered, dare I say celebratory event. It's the second "funeral" I've been to this year without the presence of a coffin, and I'm wondering if it's not the way forward for us all.

At the end of the memorial we went to The Coleherne Pub, which, funnily enough, was where we had our 40th birthday last year. We sat on the terrace with Little Michelle and Abbie and talked about singing, Eurovision and musical theatre. Gay or what? Well we were at the Coleherne... Now the height of middle-class West London straight respectability but once one of London's most notorious gay pubs!

The Brass CD was being mastered throughout the day, and periodically I received emails and various sound files from PK or Ben (the masterer.)
We went home via the Arcola Theatre where I dropped a white label copy of the Brass CD to Mark Shenton who has very kindly agreed to review it. The CD goes to the manufacturers tomorrow and then it's completely out of my hands and I can do nothing, but try to mend my body and learn to love the show again!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Still awake!

Shit, it's 4pm and I've still not gone to bed. This is the longest I've ever managed without sleep. I don't know whether to be proud or terrified!

We drove back to London at 7am. I've no idea how Nathan managed to drive on no sleep. I kept nodding off, doing that head rolling thing that happens to the wildly tired. At one stage I nodded off mid-sentence and ended up hitting Nathan by mistake as I woke up with a start!

For some reason I found this astonishingly amusing and had uncontrollable hysterics for a good five minutes which made Nathan doubt my sanity.

We did our filming this morning. Interviews with producers, both of whom I knew. We got another parking ticket for parking in a space we'd paid to park in.

Then I went into Kentish Town to meet a lawyer who wants my advice for a case he's working on. It made me laugh to think that he's charging his client goodness know what per hour for giving her advice, but not offering me a penny for my advice! (Not even a cup of tea!) Still, it's an important case and I've said I'll help as much as I can, even if it means testifying in court.

I came home, had a much-needed bath and then headed out to the osteopath. And that's where my blog must end today. Apologies for the boring list of events... I'm seeing the screen in triplicate!!

The longest night!

It was overcast and chilly in Hove this morning, and the sea, which yesterday had been a sparkling shade of indigo, was suddenly elephant grey. I guess coast-dwelling folk must become fairly immune to the myriad changes the sea makes over the seasons. It never ceases to amaze me.

We spent a whopping eight solid hours simply working on one number, Letters, today. Eight hours! It's by far the most complicated number vocally, and one which it was vital to get right... but, eight hours!

Whilst PK did his thing, and between the moments when my ears were needed, I was able to catch up on some admin. I had to register all the songs with PPL, and then decided to clear out some of the 4000+ emails which have accumulated in my inbox over the last manic period, most of which is spam. I found some fairly interesting ways of locating large pools of spam emails in my inbox by searching for key words like "protection" "diet" "warranty" and "loans." The latter netted me about four hundred spam emails which I was able to delete with a rather satisfying click of a single button!

The word "woodwork" was also fairy lucrative, for some reason. Perhaps spam is trying to tell me to be more butch!!


It's midnight and we're still going. Nathan has offered to drive down from London to pick me up because I have filming first thing which I can't miss. I'm going to look like an addict on screen; all dark eyes and a puffy face. Right now, my feet feel all itchy and my heart is pounding. There's so much jeopardy here: will we finish before PK's ears die? Will we fall asleep before delivering the files? They're due in at 10am.

At 1.45am, Nathan arrived. Sadly, he walked in at the most stressful moment in the week so far. PK had hit a brick wall, having worked on the album without pausing since 7am, almost twenty four hours ago. Neither of us could hear anything but swirling, swishing sounds.

At 2.15am, we reached something of a crisis point, and I went for a walk through the darkened streets of West Worthing. The rain on the roads was reflecting traffic lights and shop window displays, and everything was silent but for the odd passing car, and a person in a white van wearing Hi-viz, who seemed to be emptying the council rubbish bins.

I don't think anyone will ever have any concept of how difficult this week has been, trapped in a loft, deconstructing and reconstructing song after song; burying dodgy performances, sloppy tuning and trying to make up for hastily recorded music which is lacking certain frequencies. I can safely say this is the most devastatingly punishing and gruelling schedule I've ever endured.

2.54am. I smell. Really badly. My back is killing me. My shoulder ache. My eyes are stinging. There's a funny taste in my mouth and I have a headache. PK is dead to the world. We've nearly finished the mix of the last number, but then starts the process of checking everything through and getting it ready for mastering...

3.45am. My ears have given up on me and all the sounds are swimming from one ear to another. Thank God Nathan is here with his fresher ears. We're listening to On The Shelf, and the bass line seems to be effecting my ear drums in ever-more peculiar ways. It's like they keep popping or something. I feel like I've been at a rave.

4.20am and things are improving, largely because we can see a chink of light at the end of the corridor. And I don't just think it's the arrival of dawn. Nathan is listening to I Miss the Music on headphones, whilst it's formatted for the mastering process. It's the ninth song we've completed.

5am. We've sent the Prologue on its way and are about to listen to You'll Always Have a Friend. Panic has set in a little, not least because dawn has broken, I'm feeling very hungry, my eyes are closing and I know Barnbow Lassies is on its way, which is the song which has traditionally given us the most grief.

5.30am. We're midway through Barnbow and I officially like the song again. Mania has set in and I'm dancing the Charleston. PK did some work on the song before I arrived this morning/yesterday, and seems to have saved it in a genius-like way. My dread was misplaced!

6.25am. Nathan and PK are putting final touches to No Man's Land, the last number in the show, and the last to be mixed and sent off to the masterers. They're actually working on the show's button - the very last note - and have been doing so for the last ten minutes. That's attention to detail for you. Thank God, really. All my functions have packed in. In less than three hours I'm expected to be in London and making sense in a television interview. No chance. None whatsoever.  I haven't done an all nighter for years.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Masters of the universe

The excrement hit the proverbial device for creating a current of air this morning when it turned out that my decision to postpone the mastering by two days meant that we lost the masterer I'd booked and we were left scrambling about for someone else. We all know that desperation makes people raise their prices and some of the quotes I was receiving for "last minute" mastering were quite outrageous. I spent the morning whilst mixing, emailing various masterers who were coming up with quotes which ranged from £300 to £1300 to master the album, but at around noon I committed to someone who came strongly recommended as a guy who  specialises in classical music mastering, which I thought felt right. I was thrilled to find out that my CD manufacturer knows him as well and says he'll do a great job, so onwards and upwards.

It was a tough old day, however, and we're still three numbers shy of completion, which just seems insane. A number of the songs will need a second mix as well. It's funny. You can tell the numbers that the performers enjoyed, or found easy enough to do well. But there's some very sloppy playing (and singing) in places, which we're doing our best to mask, but it has the slight effect of leaving a sort of squawking mud in the midst of an otherwise perfectly decent take!  The process of mixing these numbers requires patience and space between hearings... We do a bit of work, put the song away for a bit and then return when we've done something else.

It's been a tough day for us both. Tiring beyond words. I woke up with itchy eyes which never went away. My phone broke. It only fell about 30cm, but the screen smashed, which I thought was a touch dull.

We had our lunch in the front garden. Halloumi and pepper sandwiches care of Olivia. It was a beacon of sunshine in an otherwise troubling day.

Right. I'm off to sleep. I can't keep my eyes open. Sleep well everyone. See you tomorrow...

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Over the top

As I walked from Fiona's house to Hove Station this morning, I felt a little like I was going over the top. Today was destined to be a long, somewhat dangerous, uphill climb, which would see us shot at by enemy snipers and blinded by the sun...

The day was long, deeply stressful and in the end, not quite the success we'd hoped it would be. We worked solidly for twelve hours with two short breaks for delicious food provided by PK's Olivia. The thing about sound work is that you simply can't do it for too long. The ears start playing tricks and everything begins to sound really weird.

Our revised deadline for finishing the mixes was tomorrow morning. We're plainly going to miss that, but frankly I would miss every deadline in the world for an album which everyone feels proud of. We're cusping at the moment on the edge of something remarkable, and I can't jeopardise that for the sake of a few days, because without careful attention our amazing album could drift into the world of just not being that good. I also don't want to kill PK who hasn't slept for a week just because of Brass and the mammoth aural task it's presented him with.

So, anyway, instead of working through the night, I pulled the plug on the session at 10pm, postponed the mastering, cancelled all my London meetings tomorrow (for a second day) and went back to Fiona's, wondering if the T-shirt I bought yesterday would do for another day!

I feel greatly relieved if I'm honest - although still hugely stressed because we're still not quite out of the trees. I have to deal with the issue that the physical CDs might not actually be ready for our special launch party... I have to keep telling myself that everyone will still be able to hear the tracks on a stereo at the party, and, frankly, delayed-gratification has featured rather strongly in the journey towards the completion of this CD!

So anyway, I'm downloading the rushes from Sunday's shoot, watching Only Connect on something like Dave, and before I know it, I'll be asleep...

Philippa called from A and E last night, where she'd taken her daughter, my goddaughter, Silver, who had a rash and a high temperature. Thankfully there doesn't seem to be anything badly wrong. In fact, Philippa sent me a text at about 2am, which was so amusing, I thought it ought to be quoted in full...

"Silver totally fine. No meningitis or blood tests. She was delighted with the whole experience and proudly told the young man doctor "mummy's got some nice boobs." When he asked the name of her teddy bear she replied 'Boiled'"!!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Interview hell!

I had three hours' sleep last night, which, added to the four I had the night before, and the five I had the night before that adds up to profound insanity. I've felt very strange all day: A sensation which is strangely reminiscent of being hung over, even though I didn't drink a drop last night...

I decided, for safety reasons, to take a train down to Brighton instead of  driving. So at six am, hands shaking like an addict, I was on the phone to some call centre in India, trying to ascertain whether an early train to Brighton would break the bank. 

The train journey was fairly hideous. I  received a phone call from BBC Radio York, who wanted to do a follow-up BAFTA interview, which, on the train and on a mobile phone, was always going to go catastrophically wrong. It was no surprise, therefore, when I lost reception mid-interview. No doubt the whole of Yorkshire heard me splutteringly telling the interviewer that I couldn't hear her, before sighing and swearing to myself. It's probably just as well the interview was terminated. I didn't win, so she'd no doubt have asked about the celebrities who were present at the party, and I'd have had to make something up more interesting than the fact that I'd eaten Danny Dyer's pudding after he left! Actually, that's not a bad anecdote is it?!

Anyway, on the train on the way down, I tried to get my head around the enormity of the task we had in front of us today. The plan was to finish mixing Brass tracks, but that was never going to happen without a ludicrous and highly stressful scramble, which would have lowered standards all round... So I took a deep breath, called the masterer and the CD manufacturers, cancelled everything in my diary tomorrow and decided to stay down here an extra day. 

It turns out I was absolutely right to do so. We managed another five songs today but have three to complete tomorrow, and then, of course, all the rest to double check and tweak... Some of them need overhauls. We'd never have got it done. It would have been hell on earth. 

I finished the session, went to Marks and Spencer to buy a pair of socks, a T-shirt and some boxers, bought a toothbrush and deodorant and am currently sitting, like a monged-out lemon, on Fiona's sofa, whilst Fiona double-stops arpeggios on the violin in her bedroom next door!

I am overdosing on caffeine to stay awake as long as I need to tonight,
but it's not just my joints, bones and brain which are knackered. My ears have stopped working too! 

Billy Whistle and Bafta Whafta

I'm at the BAFTA's! We're sitting in a ball room surrounded by pink palms, camply-scented flowers and lots of celebrities shrieking and patting each other's backs!

We didn't win. Of course we didn't, although many people have a theory that we came second. That's what they always say though isn't it? It's like agents who tell their clients they got through to the last two. It does no harm to tell that particular white lie!

This evening's glitzy setting couldn't be any more different from where I've been all day...

We've been shooting the promo video for Billy Whistle with all but three of the original NYMT cast of Brass.

The day started at 6am. Jo Emery slept soundly in our loft whilst Nathan, Josh and I rushed about pulling clothes on and trying to swallow down bowls of Shreddies... Or Malted Wheeties as they're called in Aldi!

Rosie joined us, we piled in the car and sailed across North London to Abney Park cemetery where we spent the first part of the morning filming musicians and the girls from the cast performing their sequences in amongst the gravestones. I had to do a radio interview with BBC York which was sabotaged by ludicrously loud birdsong. They wanted to talk about the BAFTAs but I made sure the listeners knew I was filming a sequence from a musical set in Yorkshire!

I was amazed by how luminous some of the girls were on camera. I suppose it's not altogether surprising. A year in film casting, working with the adorable Shaheen Baig (whom I just met up with at the BAFTAs) taught me to identify faces which would "pop" on camera. I had very specific visual casting requirements for Brass which I've only just realised were the product of this.

We drove in convoy to a replica First World War trench in farmland around Gatwick, where it was the turn of the lads to film their sequences, which they did with considerably professionalism and aplomb. They're such a special group of lads and they looked remarkable in their costumes all crammed into the trench. I felt like a proud grandfather! A great deal of the footage we shot was somewhere between epic and wonderful. The sun shone all day, Cameraman Keith, was a joy... As ever. We've worked together three times now, on Songs From Hattersley and A Symphony for Yorkshire and I was unbelievably thrilled when he told me he was able to do this particular project.

Channel 4 had laid on a car to take me from the trench to Central London for the awards. Nathan had left earlier to make sure he was there in good time. I thought I was going to miss the ceremony (and was happy to do so for the sake of our film), but the shoot ended early and I was able to get to the BAFTAs with enough time to get royally bored with award announcement after award announcement! When I looked down, I realised my shoes were covered in mud and my hands were covered in charcoal... Ah! The life of a film director!

When we came to collect our own car, which Nathan had parked outside City Lit, we found it utterly blocked in by some turd who'd parked like a complete dick. Our only escape route involved driving completely up onto the pavement, but we managed to get ourselves wedged between a brick wall and a ten foot-high controlled parking sign, which, low and behold, fell down when I pulled at it to see if it had any give! Problem solved in terms of Nathan's car, but should street signs collapse when prodded? Um...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Let's Get Quizzical

Today's been manic. Utterly and profoundly manic. Good manic, I reckon, but I also smell a bit manic, which is considerably less appealing...

We had our music quiz today. It was all rather lovely, and I'm proud to say we made £362 of the £500 we need to release the album, so it was worth the hard graft and the sleepless nights. My only slight disappointment was that my stereo system seems to have broken and was spewing out music at about half its usual volume, so it all got a bit uncomfortable in the rounds which required people to listen to the subtleties of a vocal performance to identify a singer. Anyway, the quizzers were hugely understanding and I'm sure everyone had a fabulous time.

The turn out was pretty good considering how bad we thought it was going to be. I was disappointed that none of the Fleet Singers made it along, primarily because the quiz was happening on their patch. I would have liked a few more of the Brass cast there as well, but top marks to Josef, Ben, Tom, Josh and Harry who represented the show and actually managed to come second over all, which I thought was deeply impressive considering they had the youngest average age! They got to be on a team with internet sensation and singing impersonator, Christina Bianco, who came with the lovely Joe from the Rebel Chorus, so I think they left feeling like they'd won first prize!

As it happened, my family's team won! Slightly embarrassing, but I assure you that I was being incredibly strict with the marking and giving no preferential treatment.

We had television cameras there, who were shooting footage for the project we're hoping to make towards the end of the year. I can't really talk about details. Neither could I tell anyone there why someone was coming up to them asking what their favourite musical was, and why... I assure you it will all make sense, as and when we get the green light...

After the quiz we went off to The Lord Palmerston pub half way up Dartmouth Park Hill and had some food and a pint of lemonade and lime. Bizarrely, Ed Miliband was sitting on the next door table with a group of friends. I think we were all a bit shocked and saddened to see him. We all agreed he looked a little haunted. Life is so peculiar isn't it? One day you're wondering if you're going to be the next British prime minister, the next you're in a North London pub, without a job, licking your wounds, wondering why it all went so wrong...

At sunset, Nathan, Abbie, Ian, Josh, Meriel, Edward, Sascha, my parents and I walked to the top of Parliament Hill and peered down across the magnificent views of London with a warm wisteria-scented spring breeze rustling our hair. It turns out that there could have been no nicer place to be at that particular time on a day like today. I love that place more than words can say. Whatever the weather.

We came home and switched on the telly to find our mate, Alison Jiear, mega-acing her audition for Britain's Got Talent. If you're wondering why you know the name, it's because Ali sang the song Yellow at our wedding. She also recorded the demo for the Eurovision song we wrote that the BBC didn't even rate enough to put through to the second round! They'll learn to listen to me one day...

Anyway. We've got a house full tonight. My mate Jo is staying with us. As is Josh, who is assisting me on tomorrow's shoot. The weather has held off, and it looks like it might be rather pleasant tomorrow, so everything seems to be slotting into place. I have two more insanely busy days to get through before I can stop and take stock of my life and if you thought today sounded hectic, you just wait til you hear about tomorrow!!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Marble cake and gift bags!

I've been tired and overwrought all day. We stayed up late, viewing the election through our fingers, hardly daring to watch the monstrous catastrophe which was unfolding. I think one of the problems with the good citizens of this country is that they tend to absent-mindedly vote Tory. It's like a sort of default "restore factory" setting. At the end of the day I suspect most aspirational people feel they're personally going to be better off under a conservative government. There's obviously guilt involved somewhere in that thinking, which is why so few people (particularly young people) actually own up to voting Tory. It's a sort of guilty pleasure. You know it's going to cause problems for everyone else, but you do it to save your own skin!

How many people actually stand in the polling station, holding their pencil stub attached to string, and think "I wonder what will happen to the NHS if I vote this way?" Or "I don't like the idea of straight bananas, but I wonder what will actually happen to our economy if we pull out of Europe? Does anyone stand there and wonder what the consequences of our spending four billion pounds on nuclear weapons will be? We may well think that people on benefits have it easy, but do we spare a thought for our friends and loved ones who might suddenly fall on hard times and find themselves desperate for benefits which no longer exists? Do we consider the hard-working people who have struggled horrendously as a result of wave after wave of cuts in the arts, education and policing?

I genuinely don't understand why we don't seem to...

Anyway. I cried uncontrollably throughout the morning. I now know exactly how my father felt in successive elections throughout the 80s and 90s. Of course I had a very personal reason to feel sad. Our MP, Lynne, was unceremoniously shunted out of office. It's no real consolation that she was ousted by a Labour person. It simply means we've lost another caring and compassionate politician, and there are precious few of them around. Besides, no one who kicked a Lib Dem MP out of office should feel proud of their achievements, just as very few SNP MPs can feel like their charisma and political aptitude played any role in their election. They simply got lucky. They merely rode a national wave of hatred...

The truth be told I cried most of all this morning because I genuinely don't know if Nathan and I will be able to survive another five years of Tory government indifference to the arts and the brutal cuts which will continue to happen. Theatres will close. Children will be deprived of art in schools. The standard of UK musicians on the world stage will diminish. I am beginning to think our personal futures may well exist on the other side of the Atlantic...

Anyway. I digress. We have to make do and mend, and I'm sure we'll shuffle onwards in one way or another.

As a sort of ridiculous counterpoint to the tragedy of the morning, at lunchtime, Nathan and I went into Central London to pick up our BAFTA gift bags. Exciting? Camp! We've not yet opened them up. These exclusive gift bags are given to all nominees and are apparently filled with little feminine gifts, trinkets and special deals. We had to sign for them and take ID in with us, which is unsurprising when you see the calibre of names on the list! Nathan was next to Catherine Tate! What I do know is that there's a handbag in there... So ladies reading this, if you get a little special etwas for Christmas, you know where it came from! Peering inside I can also see a box of Mac makeup. Handy for those blemishes...

We're not expected to win our category. The grapevine suggests that Richard Attenborough has it in the can, and The Guardian thinks that  Grayson Perry will edge it over us. We're the underdogs.

Anyway, we came home from BAFTA with our fancy gift bags and went to the Poundstretcher in Kentish Town! Call us ostentatious if you like, but that's the way we roll!

The rest of the day has been spent preparing for the quiz, which seems to have involved doing nothing but baking cakes. I've made lemon drizzle, chocolate chip cookies and a chocolate and orange marble cake. Abbie has joined us and is making a lavender cake, cus she's fancy like that.

When she arrived, we went to Highgate Woods to take a photograph of Nathan's stunningly beautiful knitting commission, which he then sent off to America. It's the last time we'll ever see the item, which he's been knitting solidly, and with love, every hour in every day for the past month. Sadly it started spitting with rain, which doesn't bode well for the shoot on Sunday. Can I get a collective "please don't rain too much on Saturday so it's not muddy on Sunday"?

Still, we might get a rainbow. Did you know that the colours on a double rainbow are reversed? Does this mean the double rainbow is actually a reflection of the first rainbow? This particular question has just been raised, alongside talk about brocken spectres, which, for the uninitiated, are curiously beautiful phenomena where creepy shadows appear in the centre of a circular rainbow. They're usually seen from above, often from a mountain top, when the person viewing the spectre is looking down into a cloud. They're also fairly often seen from aeroplanes! Google the word and see for yourself... Of course there's a scientific explanation, which I won't go into because it spoils the magic and mystery of the occurrence, but whatever its cause, the results are remarkable.